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Shahzad Alam

Program Coordinator, New Era Teacher Training Centre

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Schooling must develop in the students the capabilities required for being engaged in a life-long process of learning.

We are at a very critical juncture in history. We have resources available to us unimaginable in the past- financial resources, knowledge, technology, human resources, wealth of experience etc. We are also facing crisis very unique to our age. Everything we thought we knew about ourselves and our universe is constantly evolving and/or changing.

The most important role schools can play now is to prepare individuals who know how to learn and who take ownership of their own learning and development of the society around them. The schools themselves need to be in the process of constant learning and they also need to learn to create environment where individuals can learn to learn- both individually and collectively.

The question to ask ourselves are: what changes are required in the structure of schools? How can schools start focusing more on capacity building rather than information accumulation? What kind of environment encourages ownership in learning? How can schools be themselves involved in learning?

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  • Nov 20 2013: Shazad, I really liked the list of things your father has taught you....these words of advice are foundations for success. Reading the posts, I felt the need to talk about the issues around competition in our education system and in life. I wonder if this concept is found in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how important it is that children develop intrinsic motivation in all areas of life. I find that this is sadly not the way society is though when success is measured by your material possessions or financial standing. I wondered what your thoughts are on the importance of developing intrinsic motivation in our young children and how this can be best achieved in today's fast paced and competitive society. It's something I struggle with in my teaching career on a daily basis.
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      Nov 21 2013: As you mention, developing intrinsic motivation in our students is very important. I think competition can sometimes limit our growth. We can become content with being better than others rather than striving to developing our potential to the fullest. It can also diminish the joy of learning if we constantly compare ourselves with other's potential. Also, motivation that comes from being better than others starts developing certain traits in us that are harmful- jealousy, self-righteousness, pride and we also becoming prone to using wrong methods to becoming better- cheating.

      How this can be done is also something that I am constantly learning as well. The consciousness of why they are learning is very important in this regard. If one is learning and developing capabilities to contribute to the advancement of civilization than one is motivated to continuously develop and finds joy in other's development as well.

      We human beings are attracted to beauty and order and this too can be a great motivation. When we read a poetry and learn to appreciate it's beauty we becoming motivated to understand different poetry and it's depth. Scientists are motivated to understand the order in the universe and being able to understand the diversity and order in the universe gives them joy and fuels their motivation to go deeper and find more order. Mathematics is all about representing the order and beauty in universe through beautiful equations. Sociologists are motivated to understand the order in our chaotic society and it's processes. Understanding is a joyful process and helping students find their motivation in these things in very important.
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      Nov 21 2013: Hi, Erina and Shahzad

      I’m not in any way professionally involved in education, but I love to read and think about general concepts regarding human behaviour. One of my general methods of approach is to simplify “problems” and search for analogies in other areas.

      Erina wrote: “I wondered what your thoughts are on the importance of developing intrinsic motivation in our young children and how this can be best achieved in today's fast paced and competitive society.”
      ...and I immediately had to think about the process of development shown by young primates.

      Young primates (and others species) Are initially occupied with two things: getting food and exploring the world. So to me, curiosity is an intrinsic motivator for a major part of their behaviour. They are not being educated at all except for two things: avoiding danger and knowing their position in society. Nobody is forcing them to learn how to crack a nut or how to use a stick as a tool. They learn those things in a later stage, when THEY are ready to learn those skills. And they learn it, just by being curious (or hungry)...

      I think, that today’s society is forcing the pace for the average youngster to develop. I think that we suppress their intrinsic motivation factor called curiosity through the method of reward and punishment.

      As far as I know, the only occurrence of deliberate punishment (bullying) by primates is to establish a hierarchy. As far as I know, the only occurrence of rewarding , done by primates, is to confirm a hierarchy.

      So today’s schools are primarily occupied with...
      ...forcing youngsters to act as we have learned from our own parents and teachers.


      I agree Shahzad, it is time to change the system.

      p.s. I love this spelling control tool ;-)

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